Industry Expertise · July 21, 2020

Meet the Latest Architecture Trends While Managing Production Costs

The latest architecture trends reflect an increasing commitment to sustainability and environmental protection, as well as innovative designs. Firms looking to compete for projects in this environment face unique challenges in sourcing materials and managing costs. But with strategic partnerships and creative design approaches, your firm can tackle these hurdles head-on.


Innovation meets value

Building construction and maintenance continue to be major drivers of environmental concern. Clients are demanding a sustainability mindset in project design that tackles factors such as energy conservation and waste reduction—without sacrificing aesthetic results.

Architects often work alongside engineers to devise water-saving and energy-efficient features or innovate ways to optimize environmental factors like sunlight and wind direction. A design team might create a building envelope that mitigates the requirements for a heating, ventilation and air conditioning system. Integrated solar panel installations can harvest renewable energy.

Sought-after eco-friendly materials for these projects include cross-laminated timber and mass timber panels to replace metal and solid wood as structural beams in buildings and homes. These timber panels, made from post-industrial waste wood and smaller dimension trees, protect old-growth forests and can be cost-effective. Other types of nontoxic construction materials can decrease the use of volatile organic compounds and air quality concerns of conventional building materials.

Meanwhile, constraints on regional water supply and sewage treatment have sparked mounting interest in cost-effective ways to minimize water consumption and waste. Popular architectural design trends include:

  • Rainwater harvesting systems
  • Water-conserving fixtures, such as low-flow showers and toilets
  • Green roofs designed to absorb and retain storm-water can alleviate the burden on local treatment facilities

Many architects are also finding they need to design more resilient buildings that can withstand changing climate patterns and catastrophic events like floods, hurricanes and natural disasters. All these design trends rely on architects' ability to manipulate views, lighting, energy use and other construction elements to ensure sustainable approaches are actually pleasant for people to inhabit.

Strategies for handling costs

Sustainable projects can yield a variety of economic advantages and amazing experiences for the client. The challenge is meeting the changing market demands while still being able to price design services competitively.

Choices such as site selection, orientation or building volume can influence energy consumption but also materials cost. Spatial solutions can also save materials and labor—this might mean designing a living or working area into the exterior of a structure or reducing project size.

Eliminating unnecessary conventional features can allow better natural light capture—for example, doors might not be necessary in areas that don't require privacy. Don't rule out advanced technology systems for low-cost optimizing of sustainability design.

Building client relationships

Despite the ever-rising costs in all types of construction, passing increases on to the client may not always be a sound strategy. Buildings designed for sustainability, however, can cost less in the long run. Green features may deliver lower annual costs for energy, water, maintenance, space reconfigurations and operating expenses. ROI may be stronger, too, increasing property value. Green roofs, for example, can last two to three times as long as an asphalt roof and avoid the cost of replacing loose shingles every 4 to 5 years.

First, understand the sustainability outcomes that the client wants to achieve. Discover their reasons for these goals. Are there local regulatory requirements that need to be met? Maybe the client's desire for a particular specification is motivated by personal values or potential cost savings. Work out together how sustainability aligns with the project goals and circumstances.

Logistics and supply chain management

To deliver architecture trends clients want at a competitive price, assume ownership of your supply chain—and ideally, your chain of custody of materials—as early as possible. Work in partnership with suppliers, but avoid delegating critical requirements.

Strive to see opportunities for efficiencies as they arise in the supply chain so you can:

  • Know the origin of components
  • Identity points along the chain where excessive costs can emerge
  • Gather information on life cycle costs, risk, sustainability impacts and savings

Make chain sustainability requirements contractually enforceable, using objective measures so failures can be quickly discovered and remedied. Explore local sourcing or prefabricated options. Specializing in the design of a high-demand feature can provide opportunities to purchase relevant materials in larger quantities at a better price. Also, more manufacturers are offering circular life cycle materials, such as glass and crushed cork, so price negotiation might become easier.

Meeting today's demands for sustainable designs doesn't have to be only a challenge—it can also be an opportunity. Distinguish your firm from its competitors by building a reputation for creative designs that address environment concerns while also saving costs.

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